The cathedral is a majestic, imposing and absolute 'must see' attraction. It is one of Orkney's Viking splendours, a glorious example of Romanesque architecture and the most northerly cathedral in Britain.
Known as the 'Light of the North', the cathedral took over 300 years to build and dominates the Kirkwall skyline. It is the best preserved medieval cathedral in Scotland and built in 1137 at a time when Orkney was ruled by the Vikings. A stone minster was founded by Earl Rognvald in memory of his uncle St Magnus who was martyred on the island of Egilsay. His bones were returned to Kirkwall and placed in a shrine, drawing pilgrims to a site where it is said miracles took place!
Today, visitors can enjoy guided tours of the cathedral and climb the tower to experience spectacular 360 degree views of the area and see close-up the marvellous stained glass windows and other features which, rather eerily, include a hangman's ladder used until the 18th century! Keen students will have spotted that the massive Norman pillars are similar in style to those in Durham Cathedral. There's always a good reason - Durham masons were employed in Kirkwall at that time.
Originally under Norwegian jurisdiction, the cathedral was assigned to the people of Orkney in 1486 by King James III of Scotland and to this day still belongs to Orcadians, not the church.